The MTA must hold public hearings on its plans to close 20 station booths and eliminate 185 station attendant jobs, a judge ruled on Thursday.
In ordering officials to hold hearings, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge W. Franc Perry sided with the agency’s largest union, which argued that the plan’s direct impact riders requires public input under state law.
The proposal to nix the booths and do away with the role of “lunch relief” station agent is “not only a staffing change but is also a reduction of services, which, as the statues mandates, must be taken to the communities affected by the closure for analysis and comment,” Perry wrote in his decision.
“There is not such thing as a ‘mere’ closing or that a closing is a ‘minor inconvenience,’ Perry added, echoing language used by MTA defense attorneys.
“Any disruption by the MTA has the potential to severely impact the thousands of customers/riders who rely on the subway system as their only mode of transportation.”
“Lunch relief” attendants are assigned to cover booths while regular attendants take 30-minute lunch breaks.
In filing its suit, TWU Local 100 argued the move would remove essential eyes and ears from the subway system as it grapples with a rash of criminal activity — including attacks on transit workers.
State public authorities law requires the MTA to hold public hearings before implementing the plan, which is hasn’t done, the suit said.
The cash-starved transit agency received $4 billion from the federal government’s latest COVID-19 relief bill to avoid layoffs and service cuts in the near-term.
An MTA spokesman insisted ticket booth plan would not result in any layoffs.
“The proposal was to allow booths to be briefly unstaffed during lunch breaks – 30 minutes at a time – not dissimilar from what happens now, when agents take personal breaks,” said the rep, Shams Tarek.
“We are simply not in the financial position to pay for coverage during these 30-minute breaks. The court concluded that the law requires a public hearing before proceeding which we will do.”
Union officials pledge to “lead the fight” against the proposed changes.
“Their stated position in court that closing individual station booths across the system for upwards of one and a half hours a day is a ‘minor inconvenience’ to New Yorkers was contemptible,” Local 100 President Tony Utano said in a statement.
“We will call them on this shameful and dangerous attitude if they decide to move forward with public hearings.”